Syria hands over Saddam half-brother as 'goodwill'

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The Independent Online

Syrian forces have captured Saddam Hussein's half-brother, accused of aiding the insurgency, and handed him to Iraqi security officers as a "goodwill gesture". Sabawi Ibrahim al- Hassan, a maternal half-brother of the former Iraqi leader, was director of the General Security Directorate or al-Amn al-Amm, in charge of political repression from 1991 till 1996.

Syrian forces have captured Saddam Hussein's half-brother, accused of aiding the insurgency, and handed him to Iraqi security officers as a "goodwill gesture". Sabawi Ibrahim al- Hassan, a maternal half-brother of the former Iraqi leader, was director of the General Security Directorate or al-Amn al-Amm, in charge of political repression from 1991 till 1996.

An Iraqi government statement said Sabawi had "killed and tortured Iraqi people", and had "participated effectively in planning, supervising, and carrying out many terrorist acts in Iraq". Sabawi was captured in Hasakah in north-eastern Syria near the Iraqi border, with 29 other members of Saddam's collapsed Baath Party, two senior Iraqi officials told the Associated Press in Cairo on condition of anonymity.

The US had placed a $1m (£520,000) reward for information leading to his capture. Sabawi was 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted figures from the former government and fewer than a dozen of them are still unaccounted for. They were on the famous "pack of cards" publicised by the foreign media and the US government, and now largely discredited.

Resistance has intensified regardless of the capture or killing of members of the old regime. Two more US soldiers died yesterday in an ambush in south-east Baghdad and a US Marine was killed west of the capital on Saturday, bringing the number of US military fatalities to 1,495 since the invasion.

Close relatives of Saddam and senior members of the Baath party are probably not playing a central role in the insurgency. His two other half-brothers, Barzan and Watban, have been in custody for almost two years and may go on trial in the next few weeks.

Saddam looked to his three half-brothers by his mother's second marriage in the early years of his rule but distanced himself from them as he became more secure in the 1980s. He relied on his closest relatives again during the uprisings after the Gulf War in 1991. But in the mid-1990s, control of security was increasingly vested in Uday and Qusai, Saddam's sons, and the half-brothers were marginalised. Sabawi became a presidential adviser but was not very influential.

The former Iraqi leader was not always impressed by his relatives' abilities. In 1997, he gave a scathing round-up of their failings. He said of Sabawi in a tape-recorded conversation: "As for Sabawi, what kind of security director is he, in a country experiencing such conditions? He goes to his office at 1100 hours. He left public security to dishonest elements who are stealing people's money. I had to execute some of them."

The US has blamed the only senior lieutenant of Saddam still at large, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, for organising resistance. But Iraqi politicians privately deride this idea saying that Izzat Ibrahim is too old, suffers from leukemia and was never as important in the old regime as the US claimed.

The Baath and former security leaders important in the insurgency are men in their thirties and forties who were colonels or majors, Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, believes

The government is on a propaganda offensive, putting on television suspected insurgents and kidnappers. It is trying to build its security services but this may be disrupted by the transition to a new government, an official said. The present Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib is likely to be replaced.

US briefers blame most attacks on Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of an Islamic militant faction.

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